Center Offers Help With Bills, Rent, Food Local Victims of Pandemic May Receive Stipends

Residents behind on bills and rent will be able to seek assistance this week from a $12.5 million fund authorized by the City Council.

A resource center will open downtown near NW 10th Street and Broadway, operated by the Communities Foundation of Oklahoma.  

Temporary “pop-up” sites will reach into neighborhoods.

The council voted last week  to allocate money for the residents’ relief program from the $114.3 million the city received under the federal CARES Act.

Another $14 million in CARES Act funds was allocated to a coronavirus testing and tracing partnership with the Oklahoma County Department of Health and the council approved $1.1 million for The Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City to administer locally funded small-business relief.

The residents’ relief program:

  • • Will make payments on behalf of individuals and families to entities such as landlords and utilities. No cash payments will be made to applicants.
  • • Will cap awards at $10,000.
  • • Will reserve at least $6 million for applicants at 80% of the area median income, or $41,650 for an individual and $59,500 for a family of four.
  • • The Communities Foundation’s goal is to open the resource center by this week, said Teresa Rose Crook, executive director. 

The council approved up to $625,000 for the foundation for salaries, leases, utilities and other expenses.

Mrs. Crook  said an executive director already had been hired to lead the effort.

She agreed establishing the resource center was a dicey proposition in the midst of a pandemic.

“This is a very tough environment but for the people in desperate need, we can’t wait until COVID-19 is over,” she said.

The foundation is creating an electronic platform to enable applicants to complete forms and provide documentation online to the extent possible, she said.

The center will have a  Website.  

The foundation’s Website is cfok.org.

“For those who don’t have connectivity, equipment or prefer in-person, we have the center,” Mrs. Crook said. 

“We will require masks, hand sanitizer, have desks spaced apart and extensive cleaning.”

According to the agreement with the Communities Foundation, utility payments will be given priority.

The Oklahoma City Utilities Department said overdue utility accounts soared as the coronavirus spread, emergency orders took effect, the economy slowed and people lost jobs.

As of the end of April, nearly 11,000 households had fallen behind on payments, owing a total of more than $3.2 million.  The average amount due was $315.

Oklahoma Gas and Electric said last month it was ending a moratorium on shutting off service for nonpayment.

The utility estimated it had about 25,000 customers who had not paid their bills for COVID-19-related reasons.

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